Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman

2009-08-04 09:22
 
Classic Album: Tea for the Tillerman
 
We were all so excited to listen to it again. Lliam told me about the Garden Route trip he and Maria took with this CD. And I remembered the last time we listened to this together.

Flash back to a year earlier. Lliam was leaving for Spain, six months after our mom died. I was devastated. He was my brother. He was my best friend. I begged him to stay. But he begged me to understand that he needed to go. He said "this one's for you" and played "Hard Headed Woman". I retorted and skipped to number 3, "…I'm grieving / If you wanna leave / take good care / but remember there's a lot of bad and beware… It's a Wild World". No, I'm not making this up.

It's still seems amazing that just a few lines of Cat's songs, written in a totally different context, could sum up one of the most heart-wrenching times of my life. Of course I got over myself and when we listened to the tape together a year later, I realised that all he wanted was to "Look up at the mountain/Miles from nowhere" (Miles from Nowhere). And so did I. I can hardly remember what else we listened to on that trip. There was some Pink, Five For Fighting, David Gray and Propellerheads' "Take California". Yes, we were an eclectic bunch. But the Tea for the Tillerman cassette was the perfect buffer between my poppy, adolescent tastes, Maria's minimal English and Lliam's elitist attitude to controlling the sound system.

It's one thing for a song to remind you of a special time or place. ButTea for the Tillerman provided a soundtrack to a key moment in my family life. And it's more than just word association. Maybe it's his catchy melodies that stick with you forever. Maybe it's his free-spirited, almost cocky attitude on "On The Road To Find Out" that we clung to. I can't say for sure what it is, but I liked it then. And I like it now. Just listen to "Father and Son". No matter which one you are, you'll relate at some time in your life. I don't think this kind of songcraft can date. I've always loved the personal stories singer-songwriters tell, probably because of Cat. David Gray's "Babylon" was a big song for me that year. But Cat remains the original everyday man with a story and a guitar.

Cat Stevens is now Yusuf, and his own progression in life is so evident in his lyrics. You can see how he has gone from young gun to activist to peace maker over the years. However, I still prefer the young idealist. He was only 22 when this album was released and you can hear the youth and fervour resonate in his voice on "But I Might Die Tonight" and "Where Do The Children Play?". Don't we all like to remember the days? He's never been afraid to share his life with his audience, and he gives me the courage to do the same.

RIP Lliam.


I had just finished matric and I was spending a month in Spain with my big brother Lliam and his wife Maria. While road tripping through the snow-capped Pyrenees Mountains in their rusty-red Ford Fiesta, we pulled off at a truck stop to put the ice chains on the wheels. Lliam came back to the car with a 2 litre Coke, a pack of Camels and Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman tape. Yes, the cassette tape.

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Glynnis 2009/07/15 9:04 AM
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I agree with you WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Cat's music brings back memories aplenty. The music of today cannot compare with the wisdom and insight of the man who composed these songs - a man who peaked too early. Strangely enough, my boys (in their early twenties) just LOVE his music. As you say, Father and Son knows no age gap!!
Phil 2009/07/15 9:34 AM
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I have all his music on LONG PLAYING RECORDS (LP's) but haven't played them for many years - no record player. Memories aplenty!
smaggs 2009/07/15 9:44 AM
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This was the first LP I ever bought, back in 1873. Listening to the album (on CD now) Still brings back many memories of my teenager years and of growing up. Still is one of my favourite albums. was sad when Cat gave up singing for religion, but umderstand his motives.
Mel 2009/07/15 3:32 PM
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My dad had a great collection of music, and I got to know Cat Stevens' music from a young age, his music is still so comforting when I miss my parents ( i moved to CT from JHB), I find myself going back to listen to the oldies that my dad loved because recently the music coming out on the radio is so forgettable.
Celia 2009/07/15 3:40 PM
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If I've understood your piece, Sam, then you have lost Lliam. You are brave to share this piece of your life with an anonymous audience. I hope you find solace in listening to Cat Stevens, whose 'Tea for the Tillerman' was my dad's album and which I also got to like as a teenager in the year dot.
Sean 2009/07/15 4:14 PM
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Still think about the hard headed women I met back in 1995 , she loved CAT STEVENS and we listened to to this album on my Techincs SL 1200 , still sounds better on vinyl. Touching story Sam , sorry about your loss.
peta 2009/07/16 9:25 AM
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Takes me back also to 1973 19, years old - very nostalgic, I also still play this CD - it is timeless.
Luca V 2009/07/16 10:23 AM
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Thank you for sharing this...
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